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Microsoft to End Patches for Windows 98 & WinME

The Washington Post on Saturday ran a story I wrote about Microsoft ending support for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition (SE), and Windows Millennium (ME), pointing out that after July 11, Microsoft will no longer ship software security patches for those operating systems.

I've received a few e-mails from readers who felt that the experts quoted in our story were too quick to urge people to migrate away from Windows 98 and ME for security reasons. I realize that no matter what, some people will continue to use these systems indefinitely. As such, I'm currently putting together a testbed Windows 98 installation to see what sorts of anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall tools currently play nice with that OS. If you use one of these operating systems and know of security software that plays nice with your system, please either drop me a line or leave a comment below and include the operating system and the name of the software.

I'll report back again in a few days with the results of my own tests along with a roundup of any feedback I receive here.

By Brian Krebs  |  July 4, 2006; 3:38 PM ET
 
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Comments

Brian,

Thanks for doing this. I have Win98 machine at home as a 2nd computer, and feel no need to replace it (and the hardware sufficient for my current needs, but isn't sufficient to run WinXP: 500 mHz Pentium III CPU, 384 MB RAM). I use Symantec AntiVirus (ver. 9.01.1.1000) and SpywareGuard (ver. 2.2.0). I also periodically run Ad-Aware SE build 1.06r1. No viruses ever (a few in quarantine), and I caught some spyware on first run of the various spyware programs. None since then. I've always kept my OS up to date and applied all security patches.

Posted by: Dave | July 4, 2006 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Hope this helps you out with your Win98 project: For a firewall try Jetico here:
http://www.jetico.com/index.htm#/jpfirewall.htm
and for AV, AVG is hard to beat - go here:
http://www.jetico.com/index.htm#/jpfirewall.htm
For Adware & Spyware, try AdAware from Lavasoft and Spybot Search & Destroy from SaferNetworking.org

I use all of these in a Win98 test box that I have to keep running for work purposes and they all work great together.

Posted by: Dave | July 4, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Brian, I am still running Windows 98SE on a computer purchased about 1998. I have always been consistent about keeping it updated and "clean" meaning disk cleanup, defrag, and etc and I have never had a problem with it. Currently it is used for some software games and the "Kids Playground" browser for my grandchildren but I'm not sure what I will do now. I have been running Ubuntu in the VMware Player on a Windows XP machine and am tempted to install Ubuntu on the old computer since many report it runs great on older slower machines. I use Ad-Aware SE Personal, AVG free and it is connected to the internet on a home lan behind a broadband router with a firewall. I run a sypware check from time to time such as spybot. I have never had to reinstall the operating system and I credit that to safe browsing, ALWAYS using caution with downloaded programs and keeping the software up to date even when I had a dialup connection and the downloads would take forever. I believe it is easier to prevent problems than to correct them! Thanks for your good information-it is people like you, Fred Langa, Rob (your Post coworker), Ian Richards (Techsupportalert)and many more that have instilled this ethic in me.

Posted by: Nancy | July 4, 2006 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Do not overlook Zone Alarm. Firewall and as a spyware blocker, even Microsoft's spyware.

Posted by: ewu | July 5, 2006 9:55 AM | Report abuse

F-Prot works well on Win98SE. Very inexpensive, and updated very frequently.

Posted by: JayJ | July 5, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

One of my computers is a dual-boot machine, which almost always runs Debian Linux these days, but still has the Win98SE installation it came with. I have used the ZoneAlarm free firewall and McAfee anti-virus on that machine since I got it, and have never found any problems traceable to either. My dad had a WinME machine until a couple of months ago, and the same two products worked pretty well on it, too. (WinME itself is basically awful, but that's a different story.)

A note to previous poster Nancy as an aside: I'd encourage you to try Ubuntu on the older machine. The machine that I mentioned earlier that has Win 98SE runs Ubuntu (or Debian, from which Ubuntu is derived) very happily, and it is a 500MHz Pentium III with 192MB of RAM. It uses the kernel-level firewall via iptables(8).

Posted by: Rich Gibbs | July 5, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I have an antique Dell Latitude laptop w/Windows 98SE that I use as a second machine and for testing my website.

I use AVG free anti-virus and have a free ZoneAlarm firewall. Also run Spybot Search and Destroy or AdAware SE periodically.

Have run this "protection" configuration for over six months now and have had no problems whatsoever. Also this laptop is connected to a wireless network and is on 7/24.

As a footnote, the newest update to ZoneAlarm, released a week or two ago, is not compatible with 98SE.

Posted by: Blair | July 5, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

HI,

I use Windows ME. I will upgrade when I
finish writing a book which is scattered
all over my system, and upgrading would
kill about half of it.

But I use AVG for my virus protection and
this seems to work quite well.

I use Agnitum Outpost Firewall for that
function.

And ofcourse ad-aware and spybot. I tried
tea-timer but that would not let me make
any changes to my config.

I also use Spyware Guard and Spyblaster,
but I do not know how much good they do.

Finally, I use Hijack This to weed out,
sparingly, anything that I feel does not
need to be there.

I know nothing about any of this stuff,
as I am an old dude :)

Posted by: Budabel | July 5, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Windows M.E.
Spybot-adaware-A Squared-AVG free-Spyware blaster-An older version of Zone Alarm[newer ones give me problems]
All are trouble free.


Posted by: Too DaLoo | July 5, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

AV might offer some protection but what happens after the next monthly Internet Explorer defect is discovered and not fixable on Win9x systems? It is a recipe for drive by infections.

If I was going to use one of these systems, I'd change browsers assuming the alternatives continue to offer support. Also quit using Outlook and set the IE security zones to HIGH in case its called by some other app.

Posted by: gary | July 5, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

My parents are in their mid-seventies. My dad has two computers in his den office where one PC has Windows 2000 and the other has Windows 98SE. The Win2K PC is used for the internet. The Win98SE PC in his den office is used for pictures and music and not really for the internet. So keep in mind that not every PC has to be connected to the internet. Once, I tried to explain to my dad that you can put it all on one computer before he got the other computer, but having separate computers for different tasks made more sense to him. For him it's like watching regular TV on one TV set while watching DVDs on the other TV set. It's that sort of thinking.

Then there is the PC sitting in the living room-dining room area. That PC has WIN98SE on it and also has Firefox on it and uses dial-up internet. AVAST antivirus is running on it. ZoneAlarm (free version) was running on it for a couple months a while back, but since that has to be specifically configured when new versions of Firefox come out, I took it off because the ZoneAlarm blocking Firefox from connecting to the internet became too much of an annoyance to my parents. I visit them once a week and when I saw that ZoneAlarm didn't keep its settings for Firefox, then ZoneAlarm came off. There were no problems with not having a firewall on that PC for the years they had that PC in the living room. So, I thought ZoneAlarm, after the few months it was on, came off. Oh, the AVAST antivirus was first installed on this PC about the same time when ZoneAlarm was installed. So, this Win98 PC went without any antivirus protection for a long time. And there were no any virus problems.

So the only protection for that living room Win98 PC is AVAST. I picked the free AVAST antivirus because its documentation/website said that it has protection against viruses that tried to call out and thus AVAST had a sort of firewall-like protection if those type of viruses are detected. (Again, as previously mentioned, for a long time, there was NO antivirus software on this computer -- and there were no problems.) And for the other Win98 PC over in the den, that PC is simply not used to connect to the internet -- that's like total complete protection because no-internet-connection. Then the other layer of protection is that my parents don't do any weird internet surfing. They just visit newspaper websites, read the news, and any email that they do is through the single hotmail account they have.

No weird surfing. AVAST for antivirus. Firefox is used for the browser. There really haven't been too many if any new Windows Updates within the last year from what I remember for Win98. So, AVAST and Firefox will be picking the slack for the lack of Microsoft support which has been lacking for some time already. No firewall is really needed in this situation because just have dial-up internet. What more is needed? We're NOT talking cutting-edge web geeks here. We're talking ordinary senior citizens who don't do anything weird, don't open any unknown email attachments, has email addresses that you cannot guess and therefore no spam and if any spam then that spam is caught by hotmail filters, they don't download software all the time like geeks tend to do. Win98 in terms of 'computer years' may have caught up to my parents age, but both my parents and Win98 are still happily alive and kicking and in still good health (knock on wood) due to good eating and healthy living by staying away from weird stuff. And they'll still be around for a good long time.

Posted by: AVAST antivirus works... Also just don't do any weird surfing to malicious websites.... | July 5, 2006 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Hi Brian thanks for the opportunity to put my word in. I have been using AVG now for a while with no problems. I had problems with Norton(a virus got past the firewall) and Mcafee(My computer would freeze up) I will probably start using spybot and some other programs to protect my computer more. I hope Microsoft changes their mind as many people out there including myself can't afford a new computer that uses the more memory eating operating systems such as Windows XP. I hope you will forward comments like these to Microsoft. Thanks again for this opportunity.

Posted by: Richard | July 6, 2006 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Hi again Brian, just wanted to add something to my post of July 4th. I failed to mention that I have not used the IE browser on any of my 4 computers for several years now. That is used only if I must view the page and it will only display properly in IE. In my opinion the Opera browser is the best there is! I simply cannot say enough good about it! Granted, it takes a while to get used to but during my early adoption of it I would browse using Opera until I began to feel somewhat frustrated and then switch over to Firefox or one of the other variations of IE. Over a period of several months I realized that there were so many conveniences in Opera that were lacking in IE that I decided to not give up and go back to IE.
If a Windows 98 computer is connected to the internet I believe it is imperative it not run IE! That in itself could be the most secure action one could take! Just my 2 cents worth. Thanks for doing this.

Posted by: Nancy | July 6, 2006 8:37 AM | Report abuse

For business I carry an IBM Think pad Pent III 700mhz/512meg memory / 20gig HD.
It's 5 years old and running 98SE.
Does all I need it to do, including web site updates and related graphic design.
I stayed with older versions of the graphics software and I have Office 97 on it.

But when I went to install new Norton..... I found the latest norton doesn't know how to work with 98SE... I guess they knew something we didn't know 6 months ago.

I'm now using Bit Defender 9 AV. Their latlest and greatest plays well with 98SE and is cheaper than NAV.
I use Spyboot S&D and AdAware.
I also us FireFox.

Before IBM sold off it's Thinkpad line, I would be excited about getting a new laptop. But now I don't know if a laptop I would want to buy.... more the reason to keep my present one alive and running.

As I'm writing this on my desktop (XP Pro),I left my laptop next to me downloading the lastest from MS's Windows Update.. and the downloading from MS's WU site, just locked up. ugh.

Posted by: BK | July 6, 2006 9:36 AM | Report abuse

The new version of free ZoneAlarm (6.5 I think) does NOT support Win 98/ME. However you can get a compatible older version (6.0) at www.snapfiles.com.

Posted by: JCR | July 6, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

For antivirus on Windows98-era hardware you do not want one of the big packages like Norton or MacAfee. Stick with Grisoft AVG mentioned variously above.

The "suite" packages are bloated and are guaranteed to cause you endless agony.

And for the person temped by Ubuntu: Yes, do it!

Posted by: L | July 6, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I've been running McAfee Firewall on my 98SE (on a Compaq 1200-XL notebook) since I can remember without any problems.

Posted by: john moran | July 6, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Hi,Brian
I had to clean out a friend's ME box. It was
so infected, screens took more than half an
hour to sequence. For years she used IE 5.0
with no AV, anti-spyware or firewall apps. It took over 21 hours to remove everything
(Redlof A Virus, Trojan Downloader, over 1600
infected files and 72 separate trojan horses,
ALL the associated dll's, registry keys, and 400 plus spyware
installations.
I used msconfig to set up a selective startup boot process, set everything in IE to the highest possible security settings,
installed Firefox (now running with NoScript extension), installed free Zone Alarm firewall, Ad-Aware 1.06, Spybot S&D 1.4, and Avast!4.6 AV(now updated to 4.7).
Also set all unnecessary local services to
either manual or disabled. Her e-mail is a
web-based account. Lastly, used Spybot's
Advanced functions to secure her hosts file
and install Tea Timer to secure her registry.
She has been running it with no further
problems for fifteen months (I periodically
update all the software because she can't
and never will). I think she'll be OK until
Firefox stops supporting Windows 9.x; after
that I'll reformat her HD and install Ubuntu.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment, and
thanks for all the great work in Security Fix. Along with Ben Edelman, Suzi Turner,
Mark Russinovich, SANS ISC and Slashdot,
your blog is a mandatory daily resource for
computing safety.

Posted by: FW | July 6, 2006 6:06 PM | Report abuse

In my experience, the majority of Windows 98 users don't even install most security updates, or are already compromised as F.W. says in the previous post. Windows 98 doesn't support automatic updates the way that Windows XP does. Most people that are likely to bother to go to Windows Update and download and install security updates are also likely to be running Windows 2000 or Windows 98. So even if Microsoft contiues producing security updates, will it really do any good to keep most of these people secure?

Posted by: Fred W. | July 6, 2006 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Good enough for servers; good enough for your desktop (I'm surprised no one's mentioned it yet)...
ClamWin, and its FREE no less(!):
http://www.clamwin.com/

Posted by: RU | July 6, 2006 9:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm very happy with my 7-year old Toshiba Satellite, a Celeron 400 that runs Win 98, now upgraded to SE. It's small and I tote it to campus unlike my newer XP machine that stays on my desk most times. ZoneAlarm 6.0 has worked like a charm for my 98 machine, although McAfee antivirus 4.51 has slowly grown more and more demanding to the point where I can no longer go on the Internet without incessant lag and delays (shutting off the VirusShield solves this problem).

Thanks for doing this Brian.

Posted by: Mark C | July 8, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

will the old updates still be available to download and install? for example, what if I reinstall Win98SE. will I be able to update it with the patches and update that MS has issued to date?

Posted by: john moran | July 8, 2006 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Brian:
I have three systems, with AMD processors on two of them. I run a dual system of Windows
98SE and Linux, under GRUB on one and Windows ME on the other. My third system is an old
Amiga 1000, which I use to further test and refine my Graphics development. I have never had too
much respect for Microsoft, because of their business ethics and their very poor way of testing
software. I have not upgraded to a newer release, because every other week, another hole is
discover in windows, which they patch or attempt to patch. In plain words their testing and design
sucks.
Having been in design and development, since August 1963, of all kinds of systems, from
complex operating systems to a humble payroll system. I am happy with my systems. They allow
me to develop my imaging and graphic systems. I may upgrade to Windows 2000, but I am not
worrying at this time. I hope that you start a web page or periodic email. Thanks for this current
information.

Abe....

Posted by: Abe | July 8, 2006 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Zone Labs will cease to support Windows 98/98SE/Me with the introduction of our version 6.5 ZoneAlarm family of products including ZoneAlarm® Internet Security Suite, ZoneAlarm® Pro, ZoneAlarm® Antivirus, ZoneAlarm® Anti-Spyware, and ZoneAlarm®.

Note about pre-6.5 products:

Pre-6.5 products will continue to run on the Windows 98/98SE/Me operating system. However, there are a few new and advanced protection features in ZoneAlarm products that will not run due to technical limitations of this operating system. Zone Labs strongly recommends upgrading to a supported and current version of the Windows operating system.
Zone Labs may end services to pre-6.5 products at any time...

Posted by: Ben-David | July 9, 2006 1:33 AM | Report abuse

I upgraded several of my computers to Windows 2000 Pro. Very stable, compatible with NT/XP software. I bought the upgrades on eBay, the service pack SP4 from Microsoft for $10. You may need to upgrade the sound card, but everything else looks and feels like 98SE. I have been using ZoneAlarm w/antivirus for years and have been pleased. I'm glad to know where to get a copy of 6.0

Posted by: John Heizer | July 11, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Brian,

Upfront: I realize that you are very busy and I understand if you do not have time to get back to me.

I am an avid gamer, and I would like to install and use both the Windows 98 SE and the Windows XP (Professional or Home?) OSs on the same computer. Is this possible? Do you have any tips for installing these OSs onto the same PC? Do you have any tips for how to flip-flop one OS for another? Do I need any special HW or SW to make the flip-flopping easier?

Thank you,
John Toll
toll135@yahoo.com

Posted by: John Toll | July 11, 2006 2:40 PM | Report abuse

anyone checking back to this post should take a look at the testing I did as promised to see which software titles work well with Win98/ME.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2006/07/a_look_at_windows_98mefriendly.html

Posted by: Bk | July 11, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

John,

Check out VMware server, which is free to download for personal use. Basically, this lets you load an operating system on top of another OS. So you could run VMware Server on Win XP as your host, and then use VMware to create a 4 gig virtual disk on which to install Windows 98 on top of that. Before you go any further you will need access to a win98 boot floppy --- check bootdisk.com if you don't already have one. Then, fire up VMware, boot into the virtual disk with the Win98 install CD in your CD rom and the boot floppy in the A drive. from the command prompt, type "Fdisk" and select large disk size. Accept all the rest of the defaults and then reboot the virtual disk. Then at the command prompt type "format c:" and let it format the virtual disc. After that, reboot and select CD-Rom support, and let it boot into the windows setup. The rest is easy. If it doesn't find the setup files, the CD-rom drive should load at drive D: or E:, so type either/both of those at the command prompt and look for the windows directory, cd into that and then type setup.exe and you should be golden.

Posted by: Bk | July 11, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Ok so Windows 98 and ME are no longer supported. Does this mean that if I use my 'factory settings disc' that came with my E-Machines in 2001, I won't be able to install those important updates and patches that were available up until 11th July 2006 ?
I have re-installed Windows Me on various occasions over the years and found that I have had to download approximately 70mb of updates everytime to keep things secure and running well.
Could you possibly let me know and other users if these updates are still available because I need to do another fresh install because of glitches in some of my software.

Thanks

Steve Nott
Cwmbran, South Wales, UK

Posted by: Steve Nott | July 18, 2006 3:18 AM | Report abuse

First of all, for those users considering a re-install of Windows 98/ME, no, you will NOT be able to download those updates again. Strip your 98/ME installation [uninstall all software that you installed after installing the OS, and take a "screenshot" of your system with all security updates with Norton Ghost. Everytime you re-install Win98/ME, load up this "Screenshot" then you will have all your updates.

Also, for a secure system, I would highly recommend ZoneAlarm 6.0 or Sygate Personal Firewall for a firewall, AVG Free or Professional for anti-virus [but AVG Free is very good for the price], for browser, Firefox and IE security settings set to HIGH, and for anti-spyware, Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-aware or Spyware Doctor. Unfortunately, Ad-aware is not very good anymore, so its worth purchasing Spyware Doctor.

Posted by: Win98 User | July 23, 2006 6:19 AM | Report abuse

WHAT IS THE AUTO MATIC MEANS

Posted by: cherry | July 27, 2006 11:12 PM | Report abuse


If you need to reformat win98, you can find a service pack here.
http://www.mdgx.com/newtip98.htm

Obviously download it and save it to another medium, along with yor firewall and av'

I've used it twice now and it seems fine.

Get rid of IE with this.
http://www.litepc.com/ieradicator.html

and use firefox or another browser. Make sure you download firefox or another browser first

If you want to view sites that only work in IE, firefox has an extension to allow you to do that.

I know win98 is deeply flawed, bit I love it. BUT, I downloaded puppy linux, (good for old slower machines) and it took my breath away. My PC started acting like a puppy rather than an ol' houn' dog.


Best.

Posted by: Disgruntled | July 31, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

OOOOOOOPPPPPPPS.

Don't reformat unless youve got the MS product key for win98.

Posted by: Disgruntled | July 31, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

In regard to if you can download updates for Windows 98 after July 11, if you have to reinstall your operating system, according to the following guide YOU CAN! But only the ones that were released up to July 11. Check it out here:

http://www.pcdoctor-guide.com/wordpress/?p=3139

Does anyone have anything official from Microsoft on if the above is FACT?

I have Windows 98 SE on my computer. Almost a year ago I purchase Norton Internet Security 'O5, which includes a firewall, anti virus, etc and have had no problems. I also use Ad-Aware Personal and run it after each session on the Internet. Running Ad-Aware or some similar program seems to be key in keeping my system clean.

Posted by: BP | July 31, 2006 6:46 PM | Report abuse

I reinstalled Window Media Player 9 in my Win98SE PC and now when I go to http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ (the Windows 98 Update webpage) it won't download a patch for Window Media Player 9 that is there. Will old security patches also disappear? Is Microsoft going to close the update page? Anyone with the same problem?

Posted by: JD | August 1, 2006 11:42 PM | Report abuse

I have a couple of PC's that run WinMe and these free programs are essential:
Avast Free anti-virus
Zone Alarm 4.5(search Google)
Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE
SuperAntiSpyware Free Edition
CCleaner

I always download the .exe updates and save to disc.

Posted by: Shawn | August 12, 2006 3:25 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Shawn | August 12, 2006 3:39 AM | Report abuse

If Microsoft doesn't support Win98 why are they still selling it and why not let someone else, some interested corporation or individual, take over the marketing and support for that OS. I for one will never switch from Win 98, I have learned it inside out and it works fine for me. AVG and Zone Alarm work great together as long as two conditions are met. First if you have EVER installed any of the security suites from Symantec, McAfee, et al, then you must manually delete all references to these suites in your Win98 registry. All of these suites will leave bits and pieces of stuff all over your registry that will interfere with the operation of these two freeware programs. I don't kow if it is intentional or not, but you will have poroblems with system crashes and freezes if this is not done. I guess they assume at the pay to play outfits that you will never want to uninstall their application, so they do not bother to make a 100% total and complete uninstallation from their uninstall functions. Second, you cannot have thes two competing over which one scans you rincoming email, you must trun off Zone Alarm's email function and allow AVG to do it's thing with email. With both of these conditions met I have been running these two for several years on my 3 home systems without a speck of trouble.

Posted by: P Cedor | August 20, 2006 6:57 AM | Report abuse

other posts here remind me that winme also uses:
za free v5.x (za has a webpage of nonbuggy past ver for download)
home router (NAT, SPI)
----
you can filter and sort MS patches for direct downloading by using the corporate=true version of the windowsupdate url. try to maintain some kind of patching sequence for these files (i used subfolders IIRC)

but i expect to switch to linux desktop for net activities, and keep a winme boot for whatever else, until i use only linux.

Posted by: sbt | August 25, 2006 6:50 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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